JCC of the East Bay in Berkeley. (Photo/File)
JCC of the East Bay in Berkeley. (Photo/File)

‘We’re prepared’: East Bay JCC’s next steps depend on public schools reopening

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JCCs Face the Future: Part of a series on how Jewish community centers in the Bay Area are coping with the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

The future financial health of the JCC of the East Bay depends largely on the plans of the Berkeley and Oakland public school districts.

If they open schools for in-person learning in the fall, that puts the JCC on steadier footing, according to CEO Melissa Chapman. But if the school districts decide not to open, “we are looking at deficits that aren’t digestible as an organization,” Chapman said. “Those programs represent a significant piece of our financial puzzle.”

Melissa Chapman
Melissa Chapman

The East Bay JCC does not have a fitness center or a pool, and most of its revenue comes from preschool and afterschool programs. So unlike other JCCs, its budget has not been affected by the loss of gym memberships.

However, it relies on revenue from its other programs.

In Berkeley, Chapman expects a modified version of the after-school program to operate even if distance learning continues in the fall. The JCC transports students from schools to its site on Walnut Street, so the plan is to continue hosting the program while implementing social distancing protocols, scaling back the number of students and keeping some staff members working at home.

Oakland programming is different, because the JCC traditionally goes to the schools to oversee the programs. If they don’t reopen, Chapman said it will create a “tremendous conundrum” in fiscal terms. Layoffs are possible. The organization employs about 100 people and had to furlough 75 of them in late March.

On the brighter side, Alameda County is allowing organizations to reopen certain summer programs for children. Starting July 6, the JCC will earn some revenue with in-person camps and programming for preschoolers.

The East Bay JCC, which serves about 10,000 people each year, had a $6 million budget this fiscal year. The projected budget for next fiscal year is about $5 million, and that number could drop, Chapman said.

The JCC has received help from federal stimulus funds and private donors. It received $750,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program and raised about $250,000 between donors and an emergency Covid-19 grant from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. Chapman said some JCC families converted tuition payments that normally would have paid for their children’s programs into donations.

Despite the challenges she foresees facing in the coming weeks, “we’ll come out stronger,” Chapman said. “We’re prepared to respond. It’s our every intention to keep our strength and resilience at our core.”

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler was a staff writer at J. from 2019 to 2021.